STANBERRY, Mo. — The Jefferson Eagles had an opportunity to avenge their lone loss of the season against Mound City in the Stanberry Invitational Championship on Monday night. The Eagles held the lead for much of the game, but for the second time this season, Mound City defeated Jefferson by two points. This time on a buzzer-beater to give the Panthers a 55-53 win. 

“I’ve been beat by half-court shots at the buzzer, tip-ins at the buzzer, it seems like I’ve been doing this so long I’ve lost in about every way possible,” Eagles coach Tim Jermain said.

The Panthers wasted no time in jumping out to an early 6-0 lead. Landon Poppa scored back-to-back 2-point baskets during the Mound City run. The Eagles used their center, Chase Farnan, to slow the Panthers’ hot start. Farnan scored the first five points of the game for Jefferson to pull to within three of Mound City. 

Dalton Luke and Clayton Merrigan’s baskets gave Jefferson their first lead of the game with 3:30 left in the first quarter. The Eagles ended the first quarter with a 14-6 run that gave them an 18-14 lead at the end of the quarter. 

Matthew Poppa traded baskets with Merrigan and Farnan to start the second quarter. Mound City’s Tony Osburn cut the Jefferson lead to two with his second basket of the half, but a 2-pointer from Luke and a 3-pointer from Nathan Jermain gave the Eagles their biggest lead of the half at 27-20. 

The Panthers didn’t let the Eagles large lead last long as Landon Poppa and Blake Hayes combined for seven points to make the score 31-29 at halftime. Farnan led Jefferson to their first-half lead with nine points. Landon Poppa led the Panthers with eight first-half points. 

Landon Poppa’s score to start the second half tied the game and ended the Eagles’ run of over 11 and a half minutes with the lead. Merrigan and Jermain then scored back-to-back to give Jefferson the lead right back. The tug of war continued with Hayes scoring four-straight points to tie the game at 35, but a basket each from Nathan Jermain and Merrigan gave the Eagles the lead with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter. 

“Letting certain players get in the lane, not being matched out of a timeout, not blocking out on offensive rebounds and it’s all those little things that make a huge difference in games like this,” Coach Jermain said. “But with all that being said, we never once talked about effort.”

Hayes’ 3-pointer pulled the Panthers to within one, and then it was a 2-pointer from Gage Salsbury that gave Mound City their first lead since early in the first quarter. Neither team scored over the last two and a half minutes of the third quarter which meant the Panthers would enter the final quarter with a 40-39 lead. 

The Mound City run continued into the fourth quarter as they quickly extended their lead to 48-39 with 3-pointers from Hayes and Landon Poppa. Farnan and Koby Stoll ended the Panthers’ 13-0 with a 6-0 run for the Eagles. Matthew Poppa’s free throw with 4:15 left gave Mound City a four-point lead after being fouled by Farnan. It was Farnan’s first foul of the game. 

“He’s learned over the years that his strength is not going to be being physical and bodying up people,” Coach Jermain said. “He does a great job defensively of keeping his body away from people and if he can do that he is really difficult to score over the top of.”

Mound City held a seven-point lead with just over a minute left in the game, but a basket from Farnan and a three-point play by Merrigan made it 53-51 with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter. The Panthers tried running out the clock, but a back-court violation gave the Eagles a chance to tie or take the lead with 16.8 second left in the game. 

Jefferson went to their leading scorer on their final possession. Farnan’s layup tied the game at 53, but he missed the free throw that would have given the Eagles a one-point lead. Mound City took possession and dribbled the clock almost to zero before a missed basket was rebounded and put back by Osburn as time expired to give the Panthers their second win over Jefferson this year. 

“One of things I remember is calling a set on the floor and not everybody was on the same page,” Coach Jermain said. “Those are empty possessions where we end up with nothing. I thought there was a couple of times where we panicked and took a shot we didn’t need to—we just have to do the little things better.”

Farnan led the Eagles with 17 points, while Merrigan was second on the team with 15 points. Osburn led the Panthers with 16 points and Landon Poppa was second with 13 points.

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